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Jury acquits Lias in alleged knife attack on Hagerstown woman

Man had served time for murder in fatal 1983 stabbing

December 30, 2010|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Twenty-seven years after he pleaded guilty to stabbing a man to death, Richard Wayne Lias was acquitted Wednesday in Washington County Circuit Court of charges that he attacked a woman with a knife earlier this year.

A jury deliberated for about half an hour before finding Lias, 50, not guilty of  second-degree assault and reckless endangerment.

He had been charged by Hagerstown police with an Aug. 1 assault on Melissa DeGrange in his apartment at 222 W. Franklin St., according to the statement of probable cause.

DeGrange told police that night that she was attending a cookout at Lias’ home when she was assaulted, the charging document said. She had a cut on her shirt and a small cut on her stomach, the document said.

Although DeGrange told police on the night of the assault that Lias grabbed and pushed her and that she saw him swing a knife at her, her testimony Wednesday was less clear.

DeGrange and boyfriend David Wright had been at the apartment for several hours when they got into a fight, she testified. Lias’ Jack Russell terrier got involved in the altercation and was biting her, she testified.

Lias got involved in the fight and pushed her against a wall, DeGrange testified.

“I saw something shiny, but I’m not exactly sure what it was,” DeGrange testified. “It could have even been his watch.”

The incident was reported shortly after 10 p.m., and DeGrange testified that “a lot of alcohol was involved by then.”

Wright testified that Lias tried to break up the fight between him and DeGrange.

“The dog, mostly likely,” Wright testified when asked what he thought caused the cut in DeGrange’s shirt and the injury to her stomach.

Lias testified he left the apartment after the fight and went to a nearby bar for about half an hour.

Assistant Public Defender Carl F. Creeden told the jury the incident was a “mutual affray,” and that no crime had been committed.

Lias had been charged by Hagerstown police with first-degree murder in the June 29, 1983, stabbing death of Jeffrey Lynn Swope, according to court documents.  The stabbing occurred in an alley off of High Street, court records said.

Lias went on trial in November 1983, but entered a guilty plea to second-degree murder on the trial’s second day, court records said.

He was sentenced to 30 years in prison, but the Maryland Parole Commission released him on parole in November 1993, court records said.

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